Accountancy firms need to avoid producing content for the sake of it – always ask, what is this for?
Watch this short PracticeWeb video on why 'content for accountants must have a purpose' – either before or after reading this article – which was recorded especially for ACCA members and complements this article.
Producing content – articles, blog posts, video, eBooks, or whatever – represents a significant investment of time, money and energy. If it lacks purpose, it’s just another distraction from core business.
And, worse: thin, valueless, half-hearted content can seriously damage your firm’s reputation and prospects in the long run.
We’ve all encountered those dusty, neglected company blogs, with a handful of ancient posts that lack depth, relevance or credibility. It’s fluff. Mere ballast.
Often, this type of blog is the result of expired enthusiasm for what was, in around 2008, the internet’s hottest trend. Blogs were simple to set up, easy to update without technical expertise and felt fun and spontaneous. They were a refreshing (and refreshingly cheap) alternative to traditional paid advertising or marketing.
When corporate blogs worked – when team members or managers turned out to have a knack for blogging – they did indeed bring websites to life.
They boosted search engine rankings, too, and gave marketing managers something to post about on social media other than the company sports day or quiz night.
But too often, they didn’t work. Knocking out a quick blog post once a week seemed as if it ought to be quick and easy, but proved otherwise. It’s easy for keeping the blog up to date to feel like a nice-to-have when there’s billable client work that needs doing right now.
So there they sit, those ghost blogs, silently reproaching the firms that set them up, and suggesting to passing trade that the practice might have gone out of business or run out of steam.
But blogging isn’t dead, despite persistent rumour. It’s just that the idea of blogging as a cheap, easy answer to the challenge of corporate communications is over. They’re one option among many and require commitment and skill.
What are the other options? Podcasts, eBooks, interactive games, infographics, apps, social media, and more.
Even video is no longer the sole preserve of deep-pocketed multinationals. Most of us carry around in our pockets, in the form of our smartphones, a camera and editing suite that would have knocked Alfred Hitchcock’s socks off.
Sure, the results might not always be aesthetically perfect but, in the age of Instagram Stories and Facebook Live, consumers are not only increasingly comfortable with informal video but actually read it as more authentic.
For those more comfortable expressing themselves verbally than in writing, this is a blessing. After all, even if you need two takes, a five-minute video might take only fifteen minutes to put together.
It’s important that the purposes you want your content to serve – your content objectives – dictate its form.
Most accountancy firms have generating leads as their primary goal which, in practice, probably means getting people to visit your website. In that context, on-page text – blog posts and web pages – still comes out on top.
For the purposes of search engine optimisation (SEO), words are what count: your content needs to reflect the words and phrases that users are typing into Google and provide what they expect and need when they click through.
If your site is already performing well in terms of SEO, though, you might want your content to serve a different purpose. For example, expressing a brand personality that sets you apart from the competition.
What do you want your content to reveal about you and your practice?
(And please don’t say ‘that we’re professional but also friendly, and deliver a tailored service’ – that’s pretty much a given and has also become an awful cliche.)
Think about how your content can demonstrate, say, your commitment to the region where you operate, or that you’re experts in a particular industry, or fun to work with. In short, whatever sets you apart from your competitors.
Another common basis for content objectives is engagement with existing clients. In this case, you might want each item – blog posts, videos, whatever – to provide an opportunity to message those clients, to reinforce the wisdom of their decision to choose your firm, and encourage them to get in touch about additional services.
Ultimately, a focus on the purpose of your content is about return on investment. Defining content objectives, and producing only content that works hard for your firm, is the best way to achieve that.